Garden of Beasts: a Novel of Berlin 1936

Jeffrey Deaver
Sep 15, 2012

The setting is Berlin and the year is 1936.  In award winning author, Jeffrey Deaver’s book, Garden of Beasts, Germany is planning rearmament while Hitler is strengthening his rise to power. Main character, Paul Schumann, is a hit man for the mob who has been set up and caught by the Feds in New York during one of his assassination attempts.  He is brought to their offices and given a frightening choice: life in prison or go to Germany under the guise of an Olympic journalist and kill the head of Germany’s rearmament campaign, Col. Richard Ernst.  From the moment he steps off the boat and lands in Berlin the plans set up for Schumann to meet his contact go awry, a man is killed and Paul ends up in a manhunt for him led by Berlin’s best homicide detective, Inspector Willi Kohl of Kripo or the German police. The many twists and turns in this cat and mouse chase through the streets of Berlin make it hard to put this book down.  The reader feels the intensity of what is about to happen in Hitler’s Germany as many innocents are pulled out from their businesses and beaten for no reason by the storm troopers or brownshirts.  Houses have mysteriously become vacant and the whereabouts of the occupants unknown.  Paul Schumann as well as Inspector Kohl are both learning that the real enemy is the Nazi Party. While no book about Nazi Germany can be considered light-hearted, the grimness of the situation is lightened by the very colorful characters Schumann collaborates with and their thrilling chases and close calls. Deaver includes wonderful descriptions of the food and the beauty of Berlin.  There is even a heart-warming love interest that develops and redemption for Schumann.  I highly recommend this book for a reader who likes surprises, high jinks and fast-paced plot twists that leave you guessing who is the good guy, who is the bad guy and what will be the outcome to the very end.

Reviewed by Library Staff